The monsters aren’t only in the museum! Despite a lifetime of traveling with their father to collect strange artifacts, twins Topaz and Opa...

Feature Fiction || Dr. Cushing's Chamber of Horrors by Stephen D. Sullivan

The monsters aren’t only in the museum!

Despite a lifetime of traveling with their father to collect strange artifacts, twins Topaz and Opal Cushing have never fully believed in monsters or the supernatural. Oh, sure, they share an eerie psychic connection, and their tarot card readings often come true, but… Werewolves? Vampires? Living mummies? None of those could be real. Those legends are just for rubes. Right?

Since the girls’ father has been away, though, strange things have been happening in the family’s little exhibit—and in the waxworks studio that shares their dilapidated Victorian mansion on the outskirts of London. Now, the twins’ dreams of a fun, romantic summer season are turning into a nightmare, and the monsters are running... Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors!

Print Length: 437 pages
Publisher: Walkabout Publishing (August 30, 2020)
Publication Date: August 30, 2020
Language: English
ISBN-13: 979-8668896547

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A Tarot Reading from Chapter 1


The sign in front of the building read “Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors,” but it more accurately could have read “Daughters Cushing & Father’s Chamber of Horrors” since the twins ran the exhibition most of the time, while their sole parent was traveling, seeking the latest attractions for his macabre museum.

The chamber was a walk-down storefront in the basement of an aging Victorian manse on the outskirts of London, at 1951 Fisher St., next to the wooded end of Olde Kennington Park. It shared the building with the Duprix Waxworks, run by Vincent and Victoria Duprix, the landlords who lived in the grand quarters on the second floor. The Cushings rented the basement for their attraction, and the third floor—with its eccentric nooks and crannies and gabled ceilings—for their residence.

The waxworks occupied most of the mansion’s first floor, though the building was strangely shaped, so that the waxworks and the Chamber of Horrors abutted each other in the middle, with only a short flight of stairs, a pair of frosted glass doors, and, (when those doors were open for ventilation), a red velvet rope separating the two attractions. Most of the time, customers did not pass from one exhibit to the other, though, with a little work on the part of the Cushings and Duprixes, that would have been possible.

But, Victoria—Madame Duprix—spent most of her time running the waxworks or taking tea with her friends, while Vincent labored endlessly in his second-floor studio loft, which vaulted up into the space that otherwise would have been occupied by the third story. (He was a sculptor—and quite a good one.) The house also contained servant’s quarters with a separate entrance in the back of the building, near the seldom-used kitchens.

Perhaps the Duprixes had once employed domestics, but Topaz and Opal had never seen any staff since they and their father had moved in. And if there had been any servants there recently, the twins would have noticed some indication. The girls—often alone for the last ten years—had plenty of time to look around and discover all of the old house’s secrets.

But the secrets of other human beings and the world outside…! Those remained largely a mystery to both girls. Though lately, there had been a boy or two…

“All right,” Topaz said to her sister, “if you’re so good at absent readings… What do the cards say?”

Opal flipped up the first card on the right. “The distant past… I’d rather skip this and just look for the future…” she said.

“But that’s not the way it works,” Topaz agreed. “Assuming you can get it to work at all.”

Opal stuck out her tongue at her twin.

The picture on the pasteboard showed a woman in an elaborate robe wearing a crown topped by an orb.

“The High Priestess,” Topaz noted.

“Our father’s past, surrounded by mysteries and hidden influences,” Opal read.

“Which only makes sense, since he’s been collecting occult artifacts all of our lives.”

“And before we were born as well,” Opal noted. She flipped the second card; it showed a trio of swords piercing a stylized heart. “Three of Swords, inverted.”

“Father’s more recent past,” Topaz said. “The loss of something dear to you—I mean, to Father. I’m guessing that would be Mother.”

Opal grinned at her sister. “Who said you weren’t any good at this?”

Topaz tried, unsuccessfully, to fight down a blush. Her sister was so good at nettling her! But then, Opal undoubtedly felt the same way about Topaz.

Opal turned the next card—the one in the center of the reading. “The present…”

Topaz nodded. “The key card.”

The illustration showed the face of a bright moon beaming down upon two animals, a dog on the left and a wolf upon the right. The beasts were flanked by two solid-looking watch towers.

“The Moon,” Opal intoned, “a time of loved ones in peril and tricky choices. Choose your companions well, or they may betray you.”

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Stephen D. Sullivan has over sixty published titles to his name and helped create more comics and games than he can either list or remember.
A Scribe award-winner for “Best Novel Adaptation, 2016” with his book Manos: The Hands of Fate, Sullivan lives with his wife in a small town in Wisconsin.
You can contact him via Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, or on his website: